F-1 Status and Extension of OPT

In my extensive experience as a immigration lawyer in San Francisco, I do a lot of work in the area of H1B visas. From my office in the San Francisco Bay area, I work with applicants from all 50 states who have been in this country under a F 1 visa and who during that time have earned a master’s degree or higher.

I am going to devote a few blogs to this important area and look at how F 1 visa holders can get an extension as they apply for their H 1B. In this blog, I’m going to consider eligibility criteria.

What’s Allowed by Current F 1/H 1B Extension Regulations?

Currently rules allow specific students whose H 1B petitions are pending or accepted to keep their F 1 status when that student’s standing to work would normally run out. This extension occupies what’s known as the “cap-gap.” That is the duration between a student’s F 1 status and their H1B status.

The Reason for the “Cap-Gap”

This gap occurs because an employer is not allowed to file and USCIS may not accept H 1B petitions earlier than six months prior to the date that the beneficiary’s services or training are required to commence. The earliest date for the filing of petitions for the next fiscal year is April 1, with employment commencing October 1. With approval of the H 1B petition, which includes a change of status, the earliest date H 1B employment can be approved for is October 1. F 1 students that do not qualify for a cap-gap extension, and whose status expires before October 1st, could be in violation of their F 1 status.

Petitions and Beneficiaries that Qualify for a Cap-Gap Extension

If a student is engaged in this process they must be sure to stay in communication with their organization or company that has offered them employment. The possible employer is the hub of information for H 1B petition processing and can provide the most current information to the student.

Organizations applying for the H 1B must go ahead and complete the process on time. The petition must be submitted while the acceptance time frame for H 1B is in effect.

With timely filing completed the automatic cap-gap extension commences and will continue until the H 1B petition decision process has been concluded. If approved, the student’s extension continues through September 30th. If the student’s H 1B petition is not selected or approved, then they will be given the standard 60-days from the notice date of the rejection or the end of their program or OPT termination date, whichever is later, in order to prepare for and depart the U.S.

For those students looking to fill the cap gap working with an experienced immigration lawyer can help ensure that all steps of the filing process are properly followed. In my San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento law office, this is a busy time and although it’s not too late to start the process, it’s best to begin as early as possible.

Please contact the Ranchod Law Group with offices serving San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento California, at info@ranchodlaw.com or at 415-986-6186 if you have any questions regarding F-1 extension and H-1B visas or immigration.


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